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Colonial Ambivalence, Cultural Authenticity, and the Limitations of Mimicry in French-Ruled West Africa, 1914-1956

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James E. Genova

Colonial Ambivalence, Cultural Authenticity, and the Limitations of Mimicry in French-Ruled West Africa, 1914-1956 offers an innovative and provocative reassessment of the history and legacies of French colonial rule in West Africa between the First World War and the late 1950s. Making critical use of postcolonial and cultural theory, James E. Genova argues that the colonizers and the colonized were locked in a struggle for authority increasingly structured by competing notions of what it meant to be French or African. This book breaks new ground by demonstrating the centrality of the cultural question in the imperial encounters between France and West Africa. It maps the emergence of the French-educated elite as a social class in French West Africa as a window into the complex relationship between agency and structural context in the making of history. A disjunction developed between decolonization and liberation in the colonial liaison of France and West Africa that left colonizers and colonized trapped in a neocolonial cultural framework actualizing Frantz Fanon’s deepest fears about the postcolony.